Jackboots On Whitehall

Jackboots On Whitehall

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

With puppetry that plays like a heady mix of Team America and the madcap Belgian PicPic Andre Show, and a sense of unashamedly British humour that draws on everything from Viz and 'Allo 'Allo to Ealing comedy - Jackboots On Whitehall isn't afraid of stomping on a few tender sensibilities and its smut level is set to 'stun'.

Essentially a reworking of the Second World War, the action begins as the Nazis - led by the campest Hitler on record (Alan Cumming, funnier than he has been all year) - plan an invasion of England. As Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall on vocals) plots an evacuation to Scot Land... somewhere in England's green and pleasant countryside, farmworker Chris (Ewan McGregor, on yokels) is trying to win the heart of Daisy (Rosamund Pike) while rueing the fact that he can't fight for his country because his "hands are too big". When the Germans hit town, it falls to Chris and his countryside cohorts to come to the rescue and the raggle-taggle band head to Hadrian's Wall to seek help from the "bloodthirsty" Scots, who just happen to be led by a long-haired chap with a slightly Aussie twang.

Copy picture

Although the characters themselves - think charming, sometimes disturbing variations on Action Man, Ken and Barbie - have limited facial movement, debut feature directors Rory and Edward McHenry show exquisite attention to detail. Drawing on stereotypes from Commando comics and boys' own adventures, not to mention war films such as Zulu, there is a playful subversiveness to all the characters - these are "little Englanders" in more ways than one. All the 'heroes' of a classic war film are present and correct, from the gung-ho indestructible American airman Fiske (Dominic West) to the totally batty vicar (a wonderfully manic Richard E Grant). They incorporate xenophobia - the leader of a Company of Indian soldiers is, for example, named Rupee - in order to take potshots at it, although the success of this with audiences will depend on how prepared viewers are to go with the joke.

There are some problems with pacing - after getting off to a brisk, action-packed start, the film slows significantly in the middle section, which is weighed down by rather too much in the way of expositional montage. Thank goodness, then, for the brilliant, galvanising scoring of Guy Michelmore, which not only carries you through these segments on a wave of classic war movie nostalgia but also helps generate an emotional response to the facially limited puppets in key scenes.

Silly, certainly, and perhaps needing a little more gag ammunition in its arsenal, this is nevertheless an entertaining and rebellious film, proving once again that British animators can cut it with the best of them.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2010
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Animated re-imaginging of a German invasion during the Second World War
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